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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Why not meditate?

Most of my posts extoll the virtues of meditation. Maybe I'm taking the wrong approach.

Beth Teitel writes in The Boston Globe that "the studies showing the benefits of mindfulness and meditation are so relentless that I need to retreat to a monastery just to get away from the news. Nothing’s more stressful than hearing about the advantages of something you’re not doing."

So if you've heard about the famous meditators -- from Congressional representatives to athletes to celebrities -- and you're still not moved to start practicing, you're not alone. But you're starting to have less company. In 2007, according to the National Institutes of Health, 9.4 percent of American adults had meditated with the last 12 months, up from 7.6 percent in 2002. I'd guess the 9.4 percent will go up when the 2012 numbers are in.

Meditation has all kinds of benefits -- ones that you'll notice, more subtle ones that researchers have found in MRIs, ones that the Buddha promised. But you have to do.

The Globe article offers the following tips on starting a practice from Barry Boyce, editor of Mindful magazine.

1. Go online to get a clearer picture of just what mindfulness meditation is, anyway. Mind the Moment at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care offers a series of short, fun, and accessible videos. A YouTube video called “What Is Mindfulness?” with Jon Kabat-Zinn is also a great place to start.
2. Learn how to do mindfulness practice online: A great resource is www.mindful.org — in particular the section called “Mindfulness: The Basics.”
3. Read a short book such as “Mindfulness for Beginners,” by Kabat-Zinn, or “A Mindful Nation” by congressman Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), an avid meditator.**I really like Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg, which gives a progressive guide to starting a practice. The website lets you download the first chapter and offers audio for guided meditation.
4. Find a local group and try it with a live instructor. Come to Samadhi -- every week there's a mix of beginners and more experienced meditators, instruction, and time for questions. Everyone's experience is different every time, so however it is, that's just how it is that night.